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A cookbook for all seasons

A quick guide to the ideas behind Simply in Season

What do you mean by "seasonal"?

For the purposes of this cookbook, seasons are defined as garden seasons. As such each season comes at a different calendar time depending on the location.

Spring: The earliest foods of the year, ripe when the days are still cool (asparagus, peas, spinach, rhubarb, strawberries).

Summer: Foods that flourish in the heat (peppers, tomatoes, corn, zucchini, basil, eggplant, peaches).

Fall: Foods that don't mature until late in the growing season, including some that like frost and become sweeter after a cold snap (broccoli, winter squash, kale, grapes).

Winter: Foods that can be stored fresh (potatoes, carrots, cabbage, onions, apples).

All Seasons: Staple foods for all year round (whole grains, dried beans, dried fruits, dairy, meats, alternative proteins)

Local cooking

Most foods are available in any geographical area. However, some foods are very specific to a geographic area. For example, citrus fruits — oranges and grapefruit — are only local in areas that have a very mild climate. On the other hand, rhubarb requires a time of dormancy (cold weather) to grow well. Boysenberries are native to the Northwest. Saskatoons are native to the Canadian prairies.

Unique recipes

In our experience, recipes are living things that change with the season and with the preparer.  And while there are few completely original recipes, contributors were encouraged to submit recipes that were shaped by their own lives. When a recipe is lived with it often develops a unique twist.

A cookbook for purists?

Simply in Season focuses on the principles behind local, seasonal eating, but we didn't strive for absolute purity. The recipes may highlight foods of one season, but we don't hesitate to include ingredients that are available in all seasons (canned tomatoes, potatoes, chicken, etc.). It's also fine to include non-local ingredients like dried beans, tofu, dried pasta, flours, and sugar. We wanted the cookbook to be down-to-earth and useful to everyone — and that includes city dwellers, those unable to garden and those without big freezers.

What does organic mean?

In grocery stores, foods with the "USDA Organic" label have been raised following the U.S. National Organic Program requirements on farms annually inspected by an independent, third-party certifier. These certified farms
may not use standard chemical herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, or unapproved pesticides on soil or produce, and their livestock may not be fed antibiotics or growth hormones. "USDA Organic" products also have no
genetically modified organisms (GMOs) used in their production.

At present, Canadian farms receive organic certification from regional bodies-each with its own set of standards-under the Canadian Organic Certification Co-operative and, in Quebec, the Conseil de Accreditation.
Some small U.S. farmers likewise have formed regional organizations with unique certification criteria, sometimes more, sometimes less strict than those of the USDA.

If you want to know what's in your food-and how it was produced-the best option is getting to know, and asking, your farmer.

What is fair trade?

Some foods that cannot be grown in North America are available through fair trade organizations. Look for the "Fair Trade Certified" label on packages of coffee, tea, chocolate, and bananas, signifying certification by the
independent nonprofit TransFair. Group inspectors visit production sites annually to ensure that producers: work in healthy, cooperative settings; receive a fair and living wage; have access to affordable credit; and use
some of the fair trade premium for social, economic, or environmental projects.

Other companies are not certified but work to benefit small farmer co-ops or document specific beneficial practices, such as "bird-friendly" coffee.

Fairly traded rice and mangoes are already available in Europe; sugar, cashews, Brazil nuts, and olive oil have reached Ten Thousand Villages stores in Canada; and more fair trade fresh fruits, oils, spices, and wines
are being developed.

What is a CSA?

Scores of communities now offer CSAs: Community Supported-or Shared-Agriculture, also called subscription farming. In Japan, such an arrangement is called teikei, sometimes translated as "food with a farmer's
face on it."

In a CSA, subscribers pay the farmer for a share of the season's produce. Each week they receive whatever is ripe. If there's a bumper crop of broccoli, everyone gets extra, but if a late storm destroys the strawberries, well, everyone enjoys plain rhubarb pie. The point is that the farmer doesn't bear the financial risk alone; a bad year doesn't mean losing the farm.

Most CSAs offer organic produce. Some provide meat, eggs, dairy products, honey, or flowers. Subscribers usually pick up their food at a central location or the farm itself. Many CSAs encourage people to visit the farm
and participate in seasonal festivals. These occasions build relationships with the farm family and help members to better understand where their food comes from. The amount of food and length of commitment varies from farm to
farm, so explore local options to find one that fits your interests.